You can’t spell “pool” without — you guessed it — poo.
Millions of families are taking extra precautions as they head to the pool this Memorial Day weekend after learning from the annual Healthy Pools campaign about unsafe swimmer behaviors and a dangerous parasite called Cryptosporidium (“Crypto”).
Our client, the Water Quality and Health Council, launched the annual Healthy Pools summer swimming and public health campaign in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation®.
On behalf of the Water Quality and Health Council, our Breakthrough Research division conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 adults to measure perceptions and misconceptions related to swimming pools and public health. What we discovered was shocking … and gross.
The survey found that:
- 1 in 4 adults would swim within one hour of having diarrhea
- Half of adults seldom or never shower before swimming in a pool
- 3 in 5 adults admit to swallowing pool water while swimming
These results concerned public health experts, since waterborne outbreaks of diarrheal disease caused by Crypto have increased in recent years.
Crypto is a parasite that can spread when someone swallows water that’s been contaminated with the fecal matter (poop) of an infected swimmer. Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds. In addition to diarrhea, some people experience other nasty symptoms including lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, and fever.
The CDC advises those infected with Crypto to avoid swimming for two weeks after recovering from diarrhea. Parasites can remain in the small intestine for weeks and cause symptoms to reappear days after the infected person feels better.
Swimmers young and old can take a few easy steps to prevent Crypto outbreaks:
- Stay out of recreational water (e.g., pools, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, oceans) if sick with diarrhea and until diarrhea-free for two weeks. Patients typically continue to shed Crypto for up to two weeks after diarrhea stops.
- Shower with soap and water before you get in the water. Just one minute removes most of the dirt or anything else on your body.
- Don’t swallow the water.
- Report diarrhea incidents that occur in the water to aquatics staff immediately.
In addition to earned media coverage, we developed a series of shareable social media videos to educate the public about this unpleasant parasite and what swimmers can do to help prevent it.
We also recruited cartoonist Bill Day to design an editorial illustration that personified Crypto in an engaging way. The illustration was shared with media and included in several national and regional news stories.
We have worked with the Water Quality and Health Council on its annual Healthy Pools campaign since 2011. In that time, the campaign has been honored with several prestigious accolades, including an AAPC Gold Pollie Award, a Bulldog Digital/Social Gold Award, and several FPRA Golden Image Awards and AdFed ADDY Awards.
To learn more about the Water Quality and Health Council and its efforts to raise awareness of the importance of disinfection for public health, please visit waterandhealth.org. Follow the Healthy Pools campaign on Facebook and Twitter for healthy swimming updates.